ONTARIO -- About 20 cameras will be posted on roads in Ontario to improve safety, said Police Chief Tommy Hill.
Residents shouldn’t worry about the cameras monitoring traffic violations because the Flock Safety cameras don’t have the technology to read speeds. The Ontario Police Department has committed $50,000 from its equipment fund to lease the cameras for a year.
The Flock Safety cameras are posted at various intersections and close to a few parks, Hill said. The cameras have automated license plate reader technology and report in real-time to the police department if any license plates match entries in crime registries.
“It’s a huge, proactive tool to keep our community safe,” Hill said. “It doesn’t replace an officer, but it watches vehicles for us. We can get an officer out there to arrest people or help find abducted kids if, God forbid, that ever happens.”
Hill said the safety cameras are leased for a year and the police department will talk with Ontario City Council next year on whether to continue the leases.
The Mansfield Police Department and Richland County Sheriff’s Department each have Flock Safety cameras funded by grants from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services.
Hill said having the same cameras as other departments will help track where fugitives are driving. If Flock Safety cameras detect vehicles registered in the national Law Enforcement Automated Data System, it will notify the appropriate law enforcement agency and provide photo evidence, location and time stamps.
“I know Cleveland has a lot of cameras too, so we can even work with them if there are stolen vehicles in either of our areas,” Hill said. “We decided we wanted to try to get the Flock cameras as well to try to all work together so if something happens, we can all get on the investigation right away.”
Mayor Randy Hutchinson said the safety cameras will be a useful crime prevention tool.
“These are running 24/7, and it would be an astronomical cost to put an officer out at those locations for that many hours,” Hutchinson said.
Hill estimated paying an officer at each of the 20 locations would cost $6 million a year.
“If we had that money to spare, it would be a good investment, but we don’t, so these cameras are going to be great for crime prevention and crime solving,” Hill said. “The cameras just read license plates and that’s it.
“If it’s entered into a hot sheet, it will give us a real-time alert that that person’s in our city. Or if there’s a child or lost person, it will let us know that they’re out and about and we can try to help locate them quicker.”
According to the Flock Safety website, the cameras read license plates and have sensors to capture sight and sounds, so they can determine vehicle characteristics and features like bumper stickers. The website also says cameras aren’t designed to collect information on who is driving in cars or the location of passersby.